Saturday, October 26, 2019

Loving Through The Void

If there's one thing that we Compassion sponsors hear over and over again, it's the importance of letters. How much the children love our letters, how much they value them, how special it makes them feel to hear from their sponsor. And many of us can attest to the truth of that... our children write long, glowing letters detailing how much they enjoy our photos and that they shared our letters with all their friends and family.

A child in Brazil writes a letter to her sponsor. Photo Copyright Compassion International.

But for some, it's not that simple. Sometimes, the stream of communication between you and your sponsored child seems more like a trickle, and sometimes it even dries up for a while. Sometimes the letters come regularly but are repetitive and ask the same questions over and over again, until it sounds more like a robot is writing instead of a child.

Why is that?

Every Compassion-assisted child is required to write at least two letters per year to their sponsor. If you haven't heard from your child in six months, you can request that Compassion staff do an inquiry. They will send a note to the child's project, requesting that they write a letter. I feel it's important to mention this... I have seen far too many otherwise well-meaning sponsors drop a child simply because they haven't heard from them in 2 - 3 months. Compassion staff are always happy to look into the situation if something doesn't seem right!

But beyond that, there could be several reasons why your child doesn't respond to your questions, or why they may not write for an extended period of time. Sometimes, the child may be absent from the project for one reason or another, on the scheduled writing day. Perhaps they or someone in their family is ill, perhaps they are visiting family in another community, etc.

Children generally bring their letters home with great excitement, to show their family. They tuck the letter into a safe spot, inside their schoolbooks or under their pillow, or maybe in a box that they keep especially for letters. When the next letter writing day comes around, the child may not have your letter handy, and so they may forget to answer a specific question you've asked.

Keep in mind that many cultures are based on oral traditions. Many children don't study the art of letter-writing as children do in the Western world. Perhaps you are the first and only person your child has ever written a letter to! In the beginning, they may need a lot of help and prompting, and letters may seem stiff and formal.

In order to help with the letter writing process, teachers and tutors may write an "example letter" on the blackboard, for the children to copy. Some children, of course, take this very literally and copy the same letter word for word each time. Don't be discouraged if this is the case... your child is likely putting in a tremendous amount of effort to compose the "perfect letter" that their sponsor will be happy with!

A young woman in Kenya wearing traditional Maasai dress looks at the camera.
Photo Copyright Compassion International.

Also, keep in mind that your child may be struggling in school. Children are able to be registered in Compassion's program up until 9 years of age, and many of them are finally able to attend school for the first time at that age. So it may take them a few years to learn how to write, and they will be assisted by a tutor who will write for them during this time. Some children with disabilities may never learn to write, and may rely on a tutor to write for them for their entire duration in Compassion's program. But even if the child never learns to read or write, a tutor is always available to read the children's letters out loud to them; and they still enjoy photos and stickers!

And sometimes, children just don't enjoy writing. If you are a parent, I'm sure you know that trying to get little Johnny or Suzy to write a thank-you note to Grandma or to write a paragraph for school, can be like pulling teeth at times. Some children are extremely bubbly and talkative in person, but when faced with a blank piece of paper, have no idea what to say. I think we all can identify with feeling that way occasionally!

And sometimes, the reason may be much deeper... which leads me to a story I feel that I should share with you.

A couple of years ago, I was assigned an older correspondent... a young lady. For her privacy, I won't share her name. I began writing enthusiastically.

Her first letter was stiff and stilted, but I really appreciated the effort she obviously went to. She also included a lovely drawing of a flower, which I cherished as I don't often receive drawings from my older students.

Her next letter, however, was even shorter and more stiff. Only a few lines. And her third letter wasn't even written by her, but by a staff member at her Compassion project. This continued.... for letter, after letter, after letter.

I will be the first to admit that I was discouraged. But I gritted my teeth and kept pouring love into her life. I created colorful photo collages, I searched for flowery stationery to use, I printed encouraging Bible verses on pretty paper, I told her how special she was and how beautiful she was and how much I loved her.

Image by occcu from Pixabay 

And still the letters continued, a few months apart, with the same few short lines each time and the same drawing of a flower.

It was during this time that Compassion was able to share with me a little bit of my sweet girl's history. She was 15 years old when I began to write her, and had been registered in the program since she was 5. Ten whole years. She had had more then one sponsor during that time, but had never received a letter.

My heart broke. As I mentioned above, every Compassion child is required to write their sponsors at least twice a year. I can only imagine this sweet child's pain, writing again and again into a void, with never an answer. Never a photograph. Never a word of encouragement. Never a "Happy Birthday" or "Merry Christmas" or "I love you." Years going by, watching her friends receive letters, and never one for her. I believe that, after a while, she simply gave up. Maybe she thought her sponsor didn't love her. Maybe she thought that she was somehow not good enough, or her letters weren't good enough, or that her sponsor simply didn't care. I don't know why her sponsor chose not to write, and I can't judge them for that... they may have been going through circumstances that I know nothing about.

What I do know, is that it seemed to be enough to make Sweet Girl give up on ever hearing from her sponsor. And even when I poured love and letters into her life, she was just too afraid, perhaps, to reach out. To take the chance of being hurt and rejected again. Maybe she believed it was just too good to be true.... I'll never know. So she sat with her tutor every couple of months, answered his questions, and drew a simple flower on the back of each letter.

And this is where the true heroes of the story stepped in: Staff at the Compassion International Office, and staff at Sweet Girl's Compassion center.

I was able to place an inquiry with Compassion U.S. staff. They agreed that since she had written her own first letter, she was clearly capable of writing on her own. It was odd for her letters to be continually written by her tutors, so they contacted the in-country office to get to the bottom of the mystery.

To this day, I have no idea what Sweet Girl's tutors told her. I can imagine they approached her with all the love and kindness in the world, and told her that her sponsor really wanted to hear from her. I'm sure they told her how much she was loved and how anxious her sponsor was to see a letter written in her own handwriting. And together, they decided that they would also send "Sponsor" a nice photo of Sweet Girl writing her letter, and another one of her standing and smiling proudly, holding the letter she'd written.

I have no idea what those dear tutors told her. But whatever they said, worked. The floodgates opened, and I began to receive two letters at a time from Sweet Girl. She poured her heart out. She answered my questions. She introduced me to her family. We bonded over our shared love of music. She asked for photos of my friends and sent her greetings to my family members.

The day that she opened her letter with, "Dear Auntie Hannah, I am so proud that you are my sponsor," I cried.

A child looks through a bundle of letters from her sponsor.
Photo Copyright Compassion International. 

What if I had given up on Sweet Girl.... what if I had stopped writing to her, or only sent her the bare minimum of letters?

I could never have done it, I know... because if I ever heard God speak to me in my life, I heard him when Sweet Girl joined my family. And what He said to me clearly was, "Fight for this child."

Fight for her. Pour love into her until it overflows and spills everywhere. Encourage her. Lift her up.

I would say the same to you, if you have a child that it seems impossible to connect with. Fight for them. Love them like you've never loved anyone before. Because the people who are the hardest to love, are often the ones who need it most. Don't give up.

"For as the rain comes down, and the snow from heaven, and do not return there, but water the earth, and make it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower and bread to the eater,
So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; it shall not return to Me void, but it shall accomplish what I please, and it shall prosper in
the thing for which I sent it."
Isaiah 55:10-11

Saturday, August 10, 2019

The Fruit Of The Spirit: PEACE (For Younger Kids)

Here is the next installment of my "Fruits of the Spirit" series for younger children! If you missed the other posts, follow the links on the "Index" page or click on the "Fruit of the Spirit" label in the right-hand sidebar.

Remember, you can copy and paste all of the letters on this blog to send to your children! They are free for you to use!

Dear (Name),
Hello my precious child! Greetings to you and your family in Jesus' Name!
Have you been enjoying my letters about the Fruits of the Holy Spirit? I have already written to you about LOVE and JOY. Today, I want to talk to you about the third Fruit of the Spirit, which is PEACE.
One of my favorite Bible verses about PEACE is in Psalm 4:8. It says, "In peace I will lie down and sleep, for You alone, Lord, make me live in safety." It can be hard to sleep when you are afraid or worried, but knowing that God cares for us, gives us peace. And when we have peace in our minds that God sees us and cares for us, we can sleep well. Peace is the opposite of worry and fear. Peace is having a calm feeling in your heart, that everything is going to be okay. Jesus Himself said in John 14:27, “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” Jesus says that He will give us peace if we ask.
In Romans 12:18 it says, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” This means that not only can we have peace in our hearts and minds, but also that we should be peaceful towards other people. Here is an example of how you can be peaceful in a situation. Let's say you have an argument with one of your siblings, or with a friend. Maybe you want to yell at them. Instead, take a deep breathe of air to calm down first. Then, calmly and quietly, explain how you feel. This helps the other person to calm down and you can talk about things instead of fighting.
If you feel yourself getting really angry or upset or worried about something, it's good to go outside or find a place you can be alone for a while. Sit quietly and pray to God and ask Him to give you peace. After you take a few minutes to calm down, sometimes things don't seem as hard as they were at first.
I love you (Name), and I pray that God surrounds you and your family with peace! I am praying for you and I can't wait to get my next letter from you!
Love, your friend, (Your Name)

Along with this letter, I sent the Peace/Peach coloring page from Christian Preschool Printables.

I also included an illustrated image of John 14:27, which says, "Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you. Not as the world gives, but as I give. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid." You can find many beautiful illustrations using Google search, and you can choose the one you think your child would like best!

Have fun writing to your kids!

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

The Fruit Of The Spirit: JOY (For Younger Kids)

Here is the second installment of the "Fruit of the Spirit" series for our younger kids!

As always, please feel free to copy and paste this letter to send to your sponsored children, editing the parts in bold to suit you and your children's needs.

Dear (Name),
Hello my little Prince/Princess! Greetings to you and your family in the mighty Name of Jesus!
I have already talked to you about the first Fruit of the Spirit, which is love. Today, I want to talk to you about the second Fruit of the Spirit, which is JOY!
Many people think that joy is the same as being happy. But I think they are different. You can be happy when something good happens to you, for example if a friend invites you to play with them, or if you get to eat your favorite food. But when your friend goes home, or when your favorite meal is all gone, sometimes you might not be happy anymore. But JOY is knowing that Jesus cares for us, and that everything is going to be okay! And when we do something kind for someone else, we are joyful because we know that makes Jesus very happy! Happiness depends on us feeling good... JOY is about making someone else feel good!
When I was your age, (Name), my mother taught me this little song about how to spell the word JOY:

Jesus and Others and You
What a wonderful way to spell JOY!
Jesus and Others and You
In the life of each girl and each boy!
"J" is for JESUS for He has first place
"O" is for OTHERS you meet face-to-face
"Y" is for YOU, in whatever you do
Put yourself third and spell JOY!

There are lots of beautiful verses in the Bible about JOY! Here is one of my favorites! Philippians 4:4 says, "Always be full of Joy in the Lord. I will say it again: rejoice!"

God loves it when we show joy... the Bible also says in Psalm 98:4, "Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth! Burst into joyful songs with music!" I love to show joy by dancing and singing!

I love you so much (Name)! I pray that God gives JOY to you and your family!
Love your friend, (Your Name)

I used piZap to design this cute "Joy!" poster! Feel free to experiment with other photo editing programs and apps.

I also included this Cherry/Joy coloring page from Christian Preschool Printables.

Have fun writing to your kids!

Friday, August 2, 2019

The Fruit Of The Spirit: LOVE (For Younger Kids)

I just realized that it's been a while since I updated my "Fruits of the Spirit" series! I'm almost to the end of the series and my kids have really been enjoying learning about the different Fruits of the Spirit.

If you missed the "Introduction to The Fruits of The Spirit" letter, you can find it HERE.

As always, please feel free to copy and paste this letter and send it to your sponsored children!

Dear (Name),
Hello my sweet child! Do you remember my last letter in which I told you about the Fruits of the Spirit? Are you working on memorizing all nine Fruits of the Spirit?
Today I want to talk to you about the first Fruit of the Spirit... LOVE! Think about someone who loves you very much. Your mother and father, your teachers at the Compassion center, your sponsor (your name)... how do you know they love you? It's because of what they do for you, isn't it? Your mother and father love you, so they work hard to look after you and (siblings). When you were a baby they carried you in their arms and made sure you were fed and washed. Your teachers at the Compassion center love you, so they teach you about God and teach you how to care for your body and how to be a better person. I love you, so I write you lots of letters to show you that you are special! Do you know who else loves you? Can you guess? It's Jesus! Jesus loves you so much that He did something for you too... He came down from heaven and died on a cross, to make sure you would be able to live in Heaven with Him someday! 1 John 4:12 says "No one has ever seen GOD;  but if we LOVE one another, GOD lives in us and his LOVE is made complete in us." This means that if we show love to people around us, we are doing what God wants us to do and other people will know God because of us! How can you show love to people? You can tell use your words to tell them that you love them. You can show your love to your parents by giving them a hug or holding their hand, and doing something nice for them like helping around the house without being asked. You can show love to your teachers at the Compassion center by helping them, and by doing something nice for them like draw them a picture or sing them a song. Is there a child that you know at school that doesn't have many friends, or gets teased a lot? Maybe you can show love to them by saying hello and inviting them to play with you, or listening when they want to talk. And we can also show our love to God! By showing love to others, we are also telling God that we love Him. Of course, you can also pray and tell God that you love Him and thank Him for loving you!
I LOVE you!!!

With this letter, I created a special handwriting worksheet for my "littles!" This of course is optional if you have older children that are already writing well. A to Z Teacher Stuff has an amazing Printable Handwriting Worksheet Creator that I used to make a worksheet with the words, "God is Love!"

I printed the worksheet using this adorable "LOVE" border from!

Or, you can use this border with some funky "Heart Doodles" also from!

You can even use this pretty "Love Letter" stationery from Print This Today!

I also included this sweet "Love" coloring page with a strawberry from Christian Preschool Printables.

I hope you enjoyed today's letter-writing idea.... have fun writing your kids! 

Responses From My Kids:

"I know that people love me by what they do for me. I show love to people by talking and playing with them." ~Gifty, 7, Uganda

Friday, May 17, 2019

Canadian Animals: The Busy Beaver (For All Ages)

Image by Clker-Free-Vector-Images from Pixabay 

What's your favorite animal? Have you told your sponsored kids about it? Maybe they've mentioned a favorite animal in their letters. I find that most of my kids have either a chicken or a goat as their favorite pet, although one of my kids loves cats (she has a cat at home) and another of my kids shared the good news with me that his dog had puppies!

Kids in North America love learning about animals like lions, elephants, and giraffes. But for some of our sponsored kids, those animals are quite common. My former sponsored child in Indonesia shared with me that although he loves the beach, he hadn't been able to go there for a while because there was a wild alligator on the loose! That's certainly not a problem we run into every day! (Unless of course you live in Florida!)

So, I decided to begin a series of letters on Canadian animals suitable for both my older and younger kids. First up, is a true symbol of Canadian pride: The Busy Beaver!

Dear (Name),
How are you doing? Today I want to tell you about a Canadian animal called a beaver. A beaver is a brown, furry animal that spends most of its time in the water. Beavers are slow on land, but in water they are very good swimmers and can spend 15 minutes underwater. Can you guess what a beavers' favorite food is? It's tree bark and sticks! That doesn't seem like it would taste very good, but to a beaver, it's a tasty snack. Beavers also eat some plants that grow underwater. God gave beavers two very special body parts to help them survive in nature. The first, is its huge teeth! Beaver teeth never stop growing, and a beaver has to chew wood constantly to stop its teeth from growing too big for its mouth! Beavers use their teeth to cut down huge trees and branches so they can build their houses. I am sending you a picture of a beaver chewing on a tree. You can see from the many tree stumps that it has been working for a long time! Beavers push trees into the water, where they float. Then the beaver can easily pull the trees and branches to where it wants to build its house. Have you ever seen a dam? A dam is a structure that is built to hold back water and make it deeper in one part. While some people go to university to learn how to build and design dams, beavers are born already knowing how! I am sending you a photo of a large dam made of sticks that was built by a beaver. Beavers feel safer in deep water, so they go into the deep part to build their houses made of wood.
The second special body part that God gave to beavers is their tail. A beaver's tail is very wide and flat. It uses its tail to help it swim. When a beaver feels unsafe, it raises its tail high into the air and brings it down hard on the surface of the water with a loud SLAP! This sound can be heard from far away and warns all the other beavers that there's danger! Then the beaver dives deep into the water to protect itself.
Beavers are the national animal of Canada. We also have a picture of a beaver on one of our Canadian coins. Beavers are very hard working and industrious little animals, which is why some people use the expression "As busy as a beaver". We can learn a lot about hard work and creativity just by learning about beavers. The Bible says in Ecclesiastes 9:10, "Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might." Beavers are a good example of this. God designed them especially to cut down trees and build dams, so they work hard at it all day long! Whenever I see a beaver swimming in a lake, or notice a tree stump that was chewed by a beaver, I am reminded to work hard and faithfully at the tasks that God has given me! I hope you have enjoyed learning about beavers! I love you and I will write again soon!

There are lots of free-to-use photos of beavers and beaver dams online!

If you'd like to send a fun maze to your younger kids, The Gumboot Kids has a great Beaver Maze!

Super Coloring has a full lineup of Beaver Coloring Pages for your younger and older "busy beavers"! Super Coloring also has hundreds of other free beaver printables such as dot-to-dots, jigsaw puzzles, and even a beaver mask or two! Just type "Beaver" into the search bar!

I even found a fun "Beaver Crown" for the artsy kids who love putting together paper crafts!

Responses From my Kids:

"She is very thankful for the letter and the story of that Canadian animal called a beaver and its hard work. She says that she has seen a dam built of soil but not a very big one. From the story of a beaver, she says that she will be as busy as a beaver." ~Miriam, 7, Kenya

"I was happy for Beaver, it was my first time to see this animal." ~Basomingera, 15, Rwanda

Saturday, March 16, 2019

Andrew The Disciple: Leading People To Jesus (For Older Kids)

Recently, I wrote to my older teens about my favorite Disciple in the Bible: Andrew! The younger brother of the Apostle Peter, Andrew is often overlooked when talking about the more famous Disciples of Jesus. This letter was inspired by a daily devotion that I read some years ago highlighting Andrew's role among the 12 followers of Christ. I really enjoyed reading about Andrew, and my kids enjoyed learning about him as well! As always, please feel free to copy and paste this letter to your own kids!

Dear (Name),

Are you familiar with the 12 Disciples of Jesus? How many Disciples can you name from memory? Some of Jesus' followers are very well known... like Peter, who walked on water (Matthew 14:29), cut off a man's ear with his sword (John 18:10), and even denied knowing Jesus (Luke 22:54-62). Other well-known disciples include John, who wrote the Gospel of John; Matthew the Tax Collector, and of course, we know about Judas who betrayed the Lord. But there is one disciple that most people don't know much about, and it is Andrew, who was Peter's younger brother.
Andrew is my favorite disciple, because every time the Bible mentions Andrew, he is doing something to lead others to Jesus. Andrew was the very first man to follow Jesus, and he told his older brother Peter that Jesus was the Messiah, the Saviour. (John 1:35-42)
The second mention of Andrew is in John chapter 6, when Jesus feeds the five thousand. The disciples were asking Jesus, "How will we feed all these hungry people?" Jesus replied, "You feed them!" The disciples were amazed and said, "Where will we find enough food for everyone?" But it was Andrew who first told the Lord, "Look, there is a young boy here with five loaves of bread and two small fish." And as you may know, Jesus miraculously multiplied the bread and fish to feed 5,000 hungry people! But this story shows that while the other disciples were worrying about how to feed the crowds, Andrew was just making friends with a little boy. He showed compassion and love towards others, and Jesus was able to perform a miracle because of Andrew. Andrew was the youngest brother, and when he first began to follow Jesus, he was probably still a youth. I'm sure he often felt like he was standing in Peter's shadow. While Peter was famous, Andrew was quietly in the background, making friends with people. You can read another story about Andrew bringing some Greek men to Jesus in John 12: 20-22. I think it's important to be like Andrew; to be kind and compassionate, and most of all, to focus on bringing people to Jesus! You can bring people to Jesus by praying for them, by telling them about Jesus, and living your life so that your words and actions point people to Jesus. The picture I am including is a famous old painting of Jesus calling Peter and Andrew.
Who is your favorite Disciple and why?
I love you and I will write again soon!

I included a copy of this beautiful painting of Jesus as He called the fishermen. I was not able to find out who painted this, but if you do, it would be nice to include that information in your letter!

If you like, you can also include this great coloring page called Jesus Calls The First Disciples from! SuperColoring has a ton of great Christian and Bible themed coloring pages for both older and younger kids!

Responses From My Kids:

"You ask my favorite disciple and why... I like Peter because he accepted to live catching fish and went with Jesus to preach the Word of God." ~Shakira, 18, Rwanda

Saturday, February 16, 2019

65 Ways To Praise Your Sponsored Child (For All Ages)

Sometimes it can be so difficult to know how to praise, compliment, and encourage our sponsored children, particularly if we've never met them and/or feel like we are struggling to "know" them. Here are some ways to compliment, encourage, and lift up your sponsored child, even if we don't know them very well!

Photo copyright Compassion International

  1. I love you!
  2. You have such a nice smile!
  3. You are getting so tall!
  4. It's wonderful to see you growing up and looking healthy.
  5. I love your _____(item a child is wearing in their photo)
  6. You have very nice handwriting.
  7. You always write such interesting letters.
  8. You are such a faithful letter writer, even though I know you must be busy.
  9. I am so proud of you!
  10. Your letters are always so cheerful!
  11. Thank you for sharing that with me!
  12. You are such a smart boy/girl!
  13. You are really intelligent! 
    Photo Copyright Compassion International
  14. I am proud to see you working hard in school.
  15. I am proud of you for not giving up!
  16. You did it!
  17. I believe in you!
  18. You did your best.
  19. You are so brave!
  20. You are so kind!
  21. I am glad to hear about you being a good friend to _____ (friend that they have mentioned)
  22. You are such a big help to your family!
  23. Your parents (guardians) must be so glad that you are able to help them with _____ (chore they have mentioned)
  24. ______(child's siblings) must love having a brother/sister like you!
  25. You did such a wonderful job drawing this picture!
  26. You are a great artist!
  27. You are so creative!
  28. You have a lot of determination.
  29. You show a lot of persistence.
  30. You did a great job following directions!
  31. I'm so proud of the goals you have set!
  32. You're very talented.
  33. I'm so blessed to know you!
  34. You make my life brighter.
  35. You have a great sense of humor!
  36. You are beautiful/handsome.
  37. You are unique!
  38. There is nobody else in the world exactly like you.
  39. Your letters are so encouraging.
  40. You are such a special person. 
    Photo Copyright Compassion International
  41. Great teamwork!
  42. You are honest/truthful.
  43. You never give up.
  44. You have the potential to do great things.
  45. You are a great leader.
  46. You're so hopeful.
  47. You make me thankful that I'm a sponsor.
  48. You have shown a lot of improvement!
  49. I'm glad to hear that you tried something new!
  50. Thank you for your prayers.
  51. You're very responsible.
  52. Congratulations!
  53. You have a great imagination!
  54. I really look forward to your letters!
  55. It's great that you are learning new things!
  56. You're such a caring person.
  57. Thank you for taking the time to write!
  58. Thank you for taking the time to draw me a picture!  
    Photo Copyright Compassion International

  59. I learned something new from you.
  60. You are so passionate about ______
  61. You are important.
  62. You have a bright future!
  63. I appreciate you telling me about______
  64. You must have practiced really hard to be able to do that!
  65. I'd like to hear more about______

Hopefully this post gives you some ideas for complimenting your sponsored children through letters!